/The Week March 15, 2021 (via Qpute.com)

The Week March 15, 2021 (via Qpute.com)


Hearing to Probe Federal Scientist ‘Brain Drain’

The House Science Committee’s oversight subcommittee is holding a hearing on Wednesday to examine the state of the federal scientific workforce and reports of “brain drain” connected to staff departures during the Trump administration. The witness panel includes Andrew Rosenberg of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy organization that released a report in January detailing decreases in the number of scientists over the past four years at an array of federal agencies. Also testifying are Betsy Southerland, a former senior official at the Environmental Protection Agency who has protested the treatment of EPA staff experts under President Trump, and Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service, an advocacy organization that recently released a “roadmap for renewing the federal government.” Candace Wright, the acting director of the Government Accountability Office’s science and technology unit, rounds out the panel. The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), a former Fermilab physicist who last month floated the idea of creating a program to temporarily call back federal workforce retirees to mentor the incoming generation of scientists.

Procession of Climate Hearings Marches On

Congress is continuing its wide-ranging examination of climate change impacts and mitigation strategies this week, with a focus on the transportation and industrial sectors. On Tuesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is holding a hearing on transportation technology R&D that will include testimony from the acting head of the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The next day, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is highlighting actions by companies to reduce emissions in the surface transportation sector. In parallel, the House Appropriations Committee is holding a pair of hearings on options for promoting domestic manufacturing of clean energy technologies and on the national security implications of climate change in the Arctic. Then on Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is discussing industrial decarbonization initiatives proposed in the CLEAN Future Act, a sweeping policy bill that Democrats on the panel reintroduced this month. The same day, the Senate Banking Committee is examining ways climate change may impact the financial system.

Physicists Log On for APS March Meeting

The American Physical Society is holding its annual March meeting in a virtual format this week, marking one year since APS cancelled the 2020 March meeting at the last minute due to the then-escalating pandemic. A recent APS analysis used changes in the volume of submissions between the two meetings as a metric of disruptions to the research enterprise, finding a 9% overall drop in abstract submissions from U.S. researchers and steeper drops from experimentalists and early-career women. Among the meeting’s policy-focused sessions is a workshop on Tuesday on a recently released toolkit for “departments under threat” and a best-practices guide for physics department leaders on issues such as recruitment and retention, mentoring, and departmental culture. Other sessions include a town hall presenting preliminary findings on the global competitiveness of the Department of Energy’s Basic Energy Sciences program and facilities; a science diplomacy session that includes a talk by Temple University professor Xiaoxing Xi in association with his receipt of the Sakharov Prize from APS; and an event reflecting on the 30th anniversary of the arXiv preprint server.

NOAA Advisory Board Advancing Research Priority Studies

At its two-day meeting this week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Science Advisory Board will review a number of pending and recently completed studies offering recommendations on research and infrastructure priorities for the agency. The board is kicking off a study that will recommend weather research priorities for the next decade, which Congress mandated in lieu of commissioning a decadal survey by the National Academies. It will also vote to approve a report on NOAA’s cloud computing and data management strategy, a white paper on Earth system prediction, and another on decision making under “deep uncertainty.” In addition, it will hear NOAA’s responses to the board’s reports on data archiving and improving subseasonal-to-seasonal predictions. Also on the agenda is an update on NOAA’s diversity and inclusion initiatives from Acting NOAA Administrator Ben Friedman.

Advocates Beat the Drum for Strategic Innovation

The Center for a New American Security think tank is hosting an event on Tuesday exploring how to craft a U.S. “national technology strategy,” building on a report it released in January. Panelists include CNAS co-founder and former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy, former Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Sue Gordon, and acting Under Secretary of the Navy James Geurts. Simultaneous with that event, Michael Brown, the director of the Defense Department’s Defense Innovation Unit, is speaking about “the next five years of defense innovation” with Eric Schmidt, who was formerly CEO of Google and chair of the Defense Innovation Board. Schmidt is currently promoting a congressionally mandated study he led on artificial intelligence and innovation policy that recommends the U.S. vastly expand R&D funding and implement a wide range of policy changes to encourage more effective technology development. Next week on March 22, Brown and House Armed Services Committee Chair Adam Smith (D-CA) are participating in a panel discussion hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation think tank, titled, “Time for a New National Innovation System for Defense and Competitiveness.”

European Innovation Council Moves Into Next Phase

The European Innovation Council is holding an event on Thursday to mark its launch as a part of the European Union’s latest flagship research-funding program, Horizon Europe, which runs through 2027. The council was originally created as a pilot project in 2017 and was allocated €3 billion over three years to fund high-risk technology R&D projects and business ventures. Now, within Horizon Europe’s seven-year budget of €95.5 billion, the council has been allocated €10 billion with direction to favor efforts addressing climate change and pandemic recovery. Thursday’s event will feature panel discussions with leaders from European technology companies and the venture capital community, and on Friday the council will hold information sessions for potential applicants.


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